Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Interesting Thoughts from Jesus Wants to Save Christians

A couple of awesome quotes from the introduction of Jesus Wants to Save Christians by Rob Bell and Don Golden:

"A Christian should get very nervous when the flag and the Bible start holding hands. This is not a romance we want to encourage."

"For a growing number of people in our worlds, it appears that many Christians support some of the very things Jesus came to set people free from."

The introduction also referenced a cool Colin Powell quote from this interview:

"You can drive up the road from here and come to a spot where there is a megachurch over here, a little Episcopal church over there, a Catholic church around the corner that’s almost cathedral-size, and between them is a huge Hindu temple. There are no police needed to guard any of this. There are not many places in the world where you would see that. Yes, there are a few dangerous nuts in Brooklyn and New Jersey who want to blow up Kennedy Airport and Fort Dix. These are dangerous criminals, and we must deal with them. But come on, this is not a threat to our survival! The only thing that can really destroy us is us. We shouldn’t do it to ourselves, and we shouldn’t use fear for political purposes—scaring people to death so they will vote for you, or scaring people to death so that we create a terror-industrial complex."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I'm tired, mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

Lately, life has been getting to me. I'm currently at a place where I'm set to graduate in December, but I'm not sure how I'm going to pay for my final semester of college. I've also got a class to retake this Summer.

Last semester was not kind to me. I was overstressed and overworked and I didn't pass most of my classes. So I did a lot of work for nothing, which does not help my attitude towards school, life, or...well, anything in general.

On top of this, my car is dying. Just in the last month, it lost power steering and it has had a lot of small problems. But now I'm losing my transmission and can no longer drive in reverse. This makes a stressful life even worse.

Right now, I'm scraping to make rent for a couple more months, let alone pay for a Summer class and another Semester of school, and certainly cannot afford a new car.

Maybe this is a spiritual attack. I don't know. If it isn't, I'm not sure what is. I'm starting to lose hope that I'll graduate, that I'll get through this. I don't feel like God's listening to me when I pray anymore. I'm wondering why He has put me in these circumstances, but He's not talking.

Pray for me.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Twelve Days of Christmas: Day Twelve - The Twelve Days of Christmas

A lot of people have heard of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and have heard the song, but do not know what it is actually referring to. Originally, it started out as a Scandinavian solstice festival that lasted for twelve days. After Europe became Christianized, this festival became incorporated into Christmas, and the twelve days became counted as the days from Christmas to Epiphany.

The celebrations of the twelve days largely took place at night, starting Christmas night. A lot of Saturnalia themes snuck into the twelve days in the Middle Ages. The days would be filled with feasting and merrymaking, much like the old Roman festival, and the festivities would climax on the Twelfth Night.

These days, there are several holidays that take place during the twelve days that are recognized by different countries around the world. Among these are Boxing Day, St. Stephen's Day, and Feast of the Innocents. Some people still give gifts on the Twelfth Night, some give gifts each night.

It appears that the song originates in France and could very well have been a part of the Twelfth Night festivities. In such a festivity, singers would have had to remember all parts of the song correctly. If one of them made a mistake, they would have to pay a good natured penalty of some sort, like a kiss.

According to PNC, the price of all the items in the song would cost $21,080 this year, and $86,608 if the items are literally given as the song suggests.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Twelve Days of Christmas: Day Eleven - Commercialization

After the mid-1800s revival of Christmas, a larger emphasis was placed on its celebration. The idea of spreading peace and good will towards one another became a must. In fact, not enjoying or taking place in Christmas festivities might very well make you into a "scrooge".

One of the major ways people spread good cheer was by the giving of gifts, a tradition rooted in the holiday since before it was established. With so many people buying gifts for one another, it didn't take long before the economic significance of the holiday season became apparent.

As soon as people began to purchase Christmas gifts for each other regularly, the fear of the holiday becoming commercialized started to spread. Many were worried that the true meaning of the season was being overshadowed by how much money people felt they needed to spend on gifts.

Today, Christmas is the largest economic stimulus in many nations. In the U.S., the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas mark the rat-race time of year to go shopping. This race is jump started by "Black Friday", the day after Thanksgiving, where many retailers promote sales on items. This year, a man was trampled to death while opening the doors at Walmart on Black Friday.

Many companies, such as Coca-Cola, use Christmas images to sell their products during this time of year. Car companies and jewelers promote their products much more heavily in hopes that consumers will spend money in order to show their love to one another. Just about every advertisement this time of year has changed a traditional Christmas song to sing about their products or sales.

To some, going to the store decked out with Christmas decorations and purchasing gifts for loved ones is a favorite part of their holiday. To others, it is a stressful time that they have to get through every December. But every year, the question is always presented. Has commercialization ruined the true meaning of Christmas? And every year, the same routine persists.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Twelve Days of Christmas: Day Ten - The Debate

Ever since the its inception, Christmas has seen a great deal of debate over whether or not it should be celebrated. Early theologians made the case that only sinners celebrated the birthdays of gods, and the Christian God should not be treated likewise. This school of thought was defeated when Christmas became a was declared the official Christian holiday.

And over the years the holiday suffered more disagreements about the way Christ's birth should be celebrated. The church did not look too highly upon Yule trees, logs, singing secular songs, or even gift giving. But there always seemed to be a church leader that incorporated the traditions into the mass, eventually allowing the acceptance of these traditions in Christianized fashion.

But the Christianization of the holiday meant that it was a Catholic holiday, and when the reformation stuck, not celebrating the Lord's birth was another way to rebel against the overpowering Catholic church. Protestants were known to call Christmas "trappings of popery" and "rags of the beast".

During the English Civil War in 1647, British parliament outlawed Christmas. Many Catholics responded to the Christmas ban rioting all over the country. Rioters even occupied - and decorated - Canterbury for several weeks. Charles II removed the ban in 1660, but there were many in the church who disapproved of the celebration of Christmas.

Similarly, it was widely disapproved of by American Puritans too. Many places outlawed Christmas, while German settlers celebrated Christmas just as they had in Europe. After the American Revolution, it was seen as a British custom, and therefore not celebrated as much.

Many writers in the 1800s began to worry that Christmas was dying out, and began to write stories based around these holidays. Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843, and helped to revive the holiday probably more than any other book. He presented Christmas as a time for goodwill and family and the traditions caught on once more.

President Ulysses S. Grant declared Christmas a Federal holiday in 1870, making the celebration of Christmas in America an national past time. It also opened up another debate about Christmas: commercialization.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Twelve Days of Christmas: Day Nine - Caroling

As with most things Christmas, caroling started out as a pagan ritual. Singing to spread good cheer was part of the Roman festival of Saturnalia, as well as a way to commemorate the return of light in the celebration of Yule. Many Christmas carols started out wassailing, or drinking, songs. People sang them to spread good cheer and happy tidings.

While singing songs to celebrate Christ's mass began as a pagan tradition from Christianized peoples and therefore looked down upon by most church officials, latin songs singing of our Lord and Savior's birth eventually became commonplace in church masses. Saint Francis of Assisi is often credited for starting the tradition of latin carols in church services in the 13th century. These carols were upbeat and energetic, vastly different from the usual church music used in those times.

There are a few stories as to how the tradition of singing at people's doors began. Some stories state that carolers began roaming from door to door in order to receive food or drinks in exchange for songs and tidings. Other theories include that carolers had to go door to door because the songs were not yet allowed in church or that people sang for charity.

After the Reformation, many Protestants believed that caroling was another reflection of the Catholic church. Despite the encouragement of carols by many Protestant leaders, Martin Luther included, caroling suffered a large decline. In the 19th century Victorian era, caroling experienced a revival and the tradition has stuck ever since. Many of our modern Christmas songs were written during this time.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Twelve Days of Christmas: Day Eight - Candy Canes

Originally, these sweet peppermint treats were straight, white candy sticks that were invented in the 1400s by French priests. As to its now cane-like appearance, there are many theories and legends.

One legend says that a choirmaster in the 1600s bent the sticks in order to represent a shepard's staff. Another theory is that people hung them on their Christmas trees and bent them in order to make them functional. However it happened, it became a seasonal tradition to decorate Christmas trees with the peppermint treats.

Sometime around the turn of the 20th century, red stripes were added to the candy cane. Now, the flavor of peppermint reminds many of this time of year.